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Chemists Perspective

W
T

hich Insulating Oil Analytical Tests to Request and When

ransformer oil testing laboratories receive hundreds of thousands of samples per year for analysis. Some samples only require one
by Lance Lewand Doble Engineering Company

test, such as Polychlorinated (PCB) content or dissolved gas-in-oil analysis (DGA). Other samples require a multitude of tests. Choosing the correct tests to perform in a given circumstance can be a daunting task. Testing is of increasing importance today as new and better tests become available. This is especially true in the utility and industrial environments where out-of-service testing of apparatus is becoming less frequent. The in-service testing, primarily performed on easily sampled electrical insulating liquids, can help assess the condition of the insulating materials and, more importantly, serve as diagnostic procedures to detect and identify incipient faults in apparatus. In addition, some of these same tests can be used to verify that a failure has occurred and then to aid in the identification of the cause of failure. Advances in testing have provided some tools to help estimate the condition of the solid insulation, which is often a difficult task. Some tests can be performed to help decide which remedial actions might be most effective, such as reclamation or reconditioning of the oil. Finally, testing also provides a means to check the condition of oil in storage, whether it be new or used, to determine if it complies with specifications such as ASTM D3487, IEC 60296, IEEE C57.106, or company specifications. This article attempts to provide some basic information to users of testing laboratories so they can select the right tests to diagnose the condition of the solid and liquid insulation in electric apparatus. Oil testing is not limited to samples from transformers but also includes bulk transports, drums, and other electrical apparatus. Sampling and testing can also help to determine: if accidental mixing of different dielectric liquids has taken place. if the method of transportation contaminated the dielectric liquid. if the handling equipment to transfer the dielectric liquid contaminated the product.
Summer 2002

Some of the situations discussed in which specific analytical tests are employed include: Qualification of a refiner and large bulk shipments of oil. Small shipments of new oil and new oil shipped in large power transformers. Shipments of new oil in drums and small distribution transformers. Base line tests for power and distribution transformers. Tests to perform on in-service oil.

TABLE 1
Tests to Qualify a Product
TEST Aniline Point Carbon Type Composition Color Corrosive Sulfur Dielectric Breakdown Dielectric Breakdown Flash Point Furanic Compounds Gassing Tendency at 80C Impulse Breakdown Voltage Interfacial Tension Neutralization Number Oxidation Inhibitor Content ASTM METHOD D 611 D 2140 D 1500 D 1275 D 877 D 1816 D 92 D 5837 D 2300 D 3300 D 971 D 974 D 2668 TEST Oxidation Stability Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Pour Point Power Factor at 25C Power Factor at 100C Power Factor Valued Oxidation Relative Density 60/60 Rotating Bomb Sludge-Free Life Viscosity at 40C Visual Examination Water Content ASTM METHOD D 2440 D 4059 D 97 D 924 D 924 Doble D 1298 D 2112 Doble D 445 D 1524 D 1533

Qualification of a Refiner and Large Bulk Shipments of Oil


It is usually recommended that if a large quantity of new oil is to be purchased from a refiner during the course of year, the product (oil) from the refiner be qualified prior to initiation of shipments. Product qualification is usually accomplished by having the refiner submit samples for the tests referenced in Table 1. The purpose of the tests in Table 1 is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the oil to make certain that the oil meets certain minimum standards for electrical, physical and chemical properties. Once a product has been qualified it is absolutely necessary to confirm that a large shipment (tanker) of oil arrives uncontaminated. The tests in Table 2 are recommended tests that should be performed once tankers arrive on site prior to being placed into a transformer. It is assumed that the oil will be filtered (processed) in the transfer from the tanker to the transformer. In performing these tests, the test results from delivered oil should compare very closely to that of the qualification sample. It is well understood that some of these tests may take a day or more to complete and demurrage charges on the tanker(s) will be incurred. However, removal, flushing, and replacement of contaminated oil would be much more costly then the demurrage charges. In certain cases, additional tests may be requested. For instance, analysis for benzotriazole (BTA), a metal deactivator in the oil, might be requested. This is especially true for those receiving transformers and oil internationally where the use of BTA is not prohibited.

TABLE 2
Tests on a Large Shipments of New Oil (Two or More Tankers)
TEST Color Corrosive Sulfur Dielectric Breakdown Dielectric Breakdown Furanic Compounds Gassing Tendency at 80C Interfacial Tension Neutralization Number Oxidation Inhibitor Content ASTM METHOD D 1500 D 1275 D 877 D 1816 D 5837 D 2300 D 971 D 974 D 2668 TEST METHOD Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Power Factor at 25C Power Factor at 100C Relative Density 60/60 Rotating Bomb Viscosity at 40C Visual Examination Water Content ASTM D 4059 D 924 D 924 D 1298 D 2112 D 445 D 1524 D 1533

NETA WORLD

TABLE 3
Tests on Small Shipments of New Oil (Tanker or Less) Tests of New Oil Shipped in Large Power Transformers
TEST Dielectric Breakdown Voltage Dielectric Breakdown Voltage Power Factor at 25C Power Factor at 100C Interfacial Tension Relative Density 60/60 Viscosity at 40C Color Visual Examination Oxidation Inhibitor Content Water Content Neutralization Number Polychlorinated Biphenyls Furanic Compounds ASTM METHOD D 877 D 1816 D 924 D 924 D 971 D 1298 D 445 D 1500 D 1524 D 2668 D 1533 D 974 D 4059 D 5837 TYPE OF TEST Electrical Electrical Electrical Electrical Physical Physical Physical Physical Physical Chemical Chemical Chemical Chemical Chemical

Small Shipments of New Oil and New Oil Shipped in Large Power Transformers
For small shipments of oil, a subset of the complete qualification tests such as those given in Table 3 can be used to check the quality of the oil. As long as there are no major discrepancies, there is reasonable assurance that the other oil properties should be acceptable. It should be noted that once oil has been placed in equipment it is no longer considered to have the same properties as oil in bulk containers, such as tankers, and is evaluated based on different limits. As shown in Tables 1, 2, and 3 there is a requirement for analysis of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The analysis for PCBs needs to performed only once during the life span of a transformer, as it is a characteristic that should not change. However, if after the test the oil is handled in a manner that might cause it to be contaminated with PCBs, then PCB analysis should be conducted again to verify the concentration for regulatory purposes. New oil should not have any PCBs present, but the methods and equipment used to transport and transfer the oil may result in accidental contamination and is very important that the concentration be measured prior to use.

TABLE 4
Tests for Oils Received in Drums and Small Distribution Transformers
TEST Color Dielectric Breakdown Voltage Dielectric Breakdown Voltage Interfacial Tension Neutralization Number Oxidation Inhibitor Content Polychlorinated Biphenyls Power Factor at 25C Power Factor at 100C Relative Density 60/60 Visual Examination Water Content ASTM METHOD D 1500 D 877 D 1816 D 971 D 974 D 2668 D 4059 D 924 D 924 D 1298 D 1524 D 1533 Perform on Drums Composite YES NO Composite Composite Composite Composite Composite Composite Composite YES YES Perform on Transformers YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

Shipments of New Oil in Drums and Small Distribution Transformers


It is impractical to perform all the tests listed in Tables 2 or 3 on oil from drums. In some cases, tests should be made on a composite sample from five to 10 (or more) drums performing the tests listed as composite in Table 3 to provide an indication of the overall quality of oil received. Tests on oil in small distribution transformers are usually not as critical as in power transformers.
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TABLE 5
Tests after Energizing New Transformers
TEST METHOD Perform on Distribution Transformers YES YES NO NO NO YES Perform on Large Power Transformers YES YES YES YES YES YES

Baseline Tests for Power and Distribution Transformers


In addition to the testing specified in Tables 3 and 4, there are certain tests that should be performed immediately after a transformer is placed in service or energized (if there will probably be a long duration before actually being placed into service). This is recommended in order to provide a baseline analysis to enable trending over the service life of a transformer and to assure that the transformer does not have any gross contamination present. These additional tests are indicated in Table 5.

Dissolved Gases in Oil Furanic Compounds in Oil Metals (Dissolved) in Oil Metals (Particulate) in Oil Particle Count Water Content and Relative Saturation

D 3612 D 5837 D 5185 Doble Doble D 1533

TABLE 6
Tests for In-Service Oils in Transformers
TEST ASTM METHOD D 1500 D 877 D 1816 D 3612 D 5837 D 971 D 974 D 2668 Doble D 97 D 924 D 924 D 1298 D 445 D 1524 D 1533 Perform on 69 kV Units YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES NO NO YES YES/NO YES NO YES YES Perform on >69 kV 288 kV Units YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES/NO YES/NO YES YES YES YES/NO YES YES Perform on >288 kV Units YES NO YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

Color Dielectric Breakdown Voltage Dielectric Breakdown Voltage Dissolved Gases in Oil Furanic Compounds in Oil Interfacial Tension Neutralization Number Oxidation Inhibitor Content Particle Count Pour Point Power Factor at 25C Power Factor at 100C Relative Density 60/60 Viscosity at 40C Visual Examination Water Content and % Saturation

YES/NO indicates that it is a useful test to perform but it is not always necessary.

NETA WORLD

Tests to Perform on In-Service Oils


Since the oil and solid insulation deteriorates in a transformer while it is in service, periodic sampling and testing is necessary to ensure that deterioration is detected before it becomes excessive. The rate at which the insulating materials will degrade depends on several factors, such as the type of oil preservation system (amount of oxygen present), operating temperature, water content of the insulation, and the amounts and types of contaminants. The frequency at which testing is conducted varies with the test, importance of the equipment, whether an incipient-fault condition is known to be present or if a problem exists, and when a family of transformers has been identified as having a history of problems. All large power and large distribution transformers should be tested immediately after installation and periodically thereafter. Those units experiencing rapid deterioration of the oil or paper or those units for which an incipientfault condition has been identified should be subjected to more frequent testing. Table 6 provides some guidance as to which tests to choose.

It has become common practice to group some of the tests listed in Table 6 into screen packages consisting of five to 10 tests which are routinely employed to check the condition of transformer oil. For example, physical tests such as visual examination/color and relative density are combined with electrical tests such as dielectric strength and power factor and also with chemical tests such as water content and neutralization number to form a screen package. Be advised that each laboratory has its own screen package tests and there is no standardization throughout the industry. Make sure the screen package that a laboratory is offering are the tests that are required.

Lance Lewand received his BS degree at St. Marys College of Maryland in 1980. He has been employed by the Doble Engineering Company for the past ten years and is currently Project Manager of Research in the materials laboratory and Product Manager for the DOMINO TM product line. Prior to his present position at Doble, he was the Manager of the Transformer Fluid Test Laboratory and PCB and Oil Services at MET Electrical Testing in Baltimore, MD. Mr. Lewand is a member of ASTM Committee D 27.

Summer 2002